Vymanika Shastra, Part Two


Apr 30, 2011 — CANADA (SUN) — The Vedic science of flight – a study in several parts.



Probes of the study team, in fact had started from early 1999. Extensive correspondence, leg work in contacting and meeting persons connected, even remotely, with the work and its conveyor, Shree Anekal Subbarayashastri, his associates, descendants, research workers within and outside the country was an intense exercise and interesting too.

The starting point was, of course, the acquisition of G.R. Joyser"s published work, Vymanika Shastra, from a less known book stall in Bangalore. A few leading libraries had just one copy in their reference sections. During this process several sources confirmed that many a copy have been taken by foreign researchers. Over eight universities libraries in USA and UK accessed through the Internet confirmed availability of copies in their libraries. It was interesting that some individual research workers had been working seriously on the work. From the collation of information, it is noted that a majority of researches conducted abroad belonged to post 1985 period. Here again, some of the published books abroad indicate that researches there have been continuous and steady till current times. One has to acknowledge the seriousness with which works of this nature pertaining to ancient India has been taken. Needless to say that inland scholars have a lot more to emulate. A more incisive observation is that focus on research of this works both in India and abroad has come about pointedly after 1988.

A study is conducted by our team on the chronology of Indian researches from various reports and claims. The turnkey for researchers was the publication of Vymaanika Shastra by G.R. Joyser (English) and Brihad Vimaana Shastra, edited by Swami Brahmamuni Parivrajaka Gurukul Kandgi of Haridvar and published by Dayanand Bhavan, New Delhi in Sanskrit-Hindi. The first known research appears to from Sri Naren Sheth of Mumbai, a freelance enthusiast. His research as claimed by him spans nearly thirty years. Due credit goes to him for his zeal and dedication even with meager sources of laboratory facilities. His reports mention the assistance sought from IIT Bombay, BARC, TIFR etc. in preparing laboratory samples of Chumbakamani, Panchadharaloha. Sri Naren Sheth is seventy years of age now. He is keen to demonstrate the preparation of the materials he developed for the benefit of genuine researchers on invitation basis. Extract of his report is appended (Appendix – A).

The second known attempt was a A Critical Study of the work by a team of scientists from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, from 1973-1974, soon after the publication of Joseyer"s translation. Notably this review undertaken in the backdrop of principles of modern science did not find favour with the critics. Contemporary aerodynamics and propulsion principles were heavily superimposed during this review. Had the study gone deeper into Yantras (machines) and advanced material technology dealt with in the text they would have had second thoughts. The text, seen under the principles of mercury vapour propulsion, levity, anti-gravity material, interesting ideas being brought out by western researchers would have found more relevance. It is to be widely appreciated that aviation today is not only a science of structure and aerodynamic phenomena but equally or more prominently contributed by associated sciences in systems such as optics, guidance, navigation, tactical and strategic concepts being developed not under one roof but being integrated out of deliveries from discreet sources of technologies. As seen by this review team, our study team also identified two essential aspects corrupting the understanding of the readers. They are usage of unstandardised units of measurement such as those relating to speed, length, resistance, force, heat and so on adding enough confusion. Secondly the drawings of the vimanas and its components drawn by local draughtsman under instructions from Sri. Shastriji seem to have been influenced by his own imagination. Nevertheless, we request I.I.Sc., team to have a relook at the work in the context of adequate validation of other parts of the text in the last two decades. Their report published in 1974 is appended. (Appendix – B)

Then on, there seems to be fairly a long gap till late the eighties when Dr. Roberto Pinotti, a scientist from Italy, reminded Indian scientists to take ancient Indian scientific works seriously (with reference to Vymanika Shastra). What a paradox! Assuming that he must have made this statement from a serious study of the work, he had extensively noticed features other Indian scientists had missed to note. Dr. Pinotti"s address was not to a casual gathering of orthodox Indians. He was addressing a seminar of International Astronautical Congress in October 1988. The seminar had been organized by Indian space research organization at Bangalore. Extracts of his report is appended (Appencix – C).

It was the department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay that contributed towards laboratory development of materials like Chumbakamani, Panchadhara-loha and Paragrandhika-drava. Dr. Maheshwar Sharon"s report throws light on the equivalence of these materials to those developed by modern science during the later part of the 20th century. Relevant extracts of his report are appended as Appendix – F. However Dr. Sharon has expressed that many of the tests could not be concluded because of limitations of translational skills and decoding.

Next it was Dr. Balachandra Rao"s turn to remark on the work, in his book titled Tradition, Science and Society, published in 1988. Dr.Balachandra Rao, a professor of Mathematics at a science college in Bangalore attacks the work, almost lethally. We request him to review the work in consultation with experts in the field of aviation and related sciences.

Some time in 1988, Dr. David Childress, an eminent scholar from USA, published the first edition of his Book, Vimana Aircraft Of Ancient India And Atlantis. This book has been updated with research information and published every year till 1999. In this book, he has also chosen to reproduce completely Vymanika Shastra (Joyser"s English version) for the sake of readers. Detailed discussions on propulsion conceptual techniques such as mercury vapour propulsion, thrust vector engines, solar energy employment etc., have been introduced for prospective contemporary thinkers. The book is thought-provoking and makes interesting reading. He has sighted principles and concepts that had evaded conventional Indian scientists.

The next milestone the work Vymanika Shastra saw was a kind of miniature revolution set by a group of scientists from Hyderabad, starting with a country wide search of ancient Indian scientific literature. During their visit to Bangalore, they obtained copies of some of Sri. Shastry"s works including Vymanika Shastra from the author"s descendants. This was in 1991-92, as learnt from the grandchildren of the pandit. The team from Birla Science Centre, Hydrabad was composed of Dr. B.G. Siddarth and Sri. C.S.R. Prabhu. It appears that out of the ancient works they had gathered in their collection-drive, Vymanika Shastra prominently struck them and from that they found topics relating to materials suited for their research. Materials developed in accordance with formulae given in the text validated textual contents. The brief report is appended Appendix – D.

The unique treatise with a highly technical scientific outlook on development of materials and yantras as per ancient scientific formulae is from a task force sponsored by Indian National Science Academy, INSA. The topic, though not directly a part of Vymanika Shastra, is related to work Anshu Bodhini of the common author, Maharshi Baharadwaja. Hence the special mention of this research work made here. This piece of research is undoubtedly a benchmark in the conduct of researching ancient Indian works. The task force consisted of Dr. Dongre, P.G. College of Varanasi, Dr. P.Ramachandra Rao, Director of National Metallurgical Laboratory, Jamshedpur and others. We are appendaging their report in full as a part of our study report. We are thankful to them for the valuable co-operation extended to us. Their report relates to development of a novel spectrometer/monochromeater called Dwanta Pramapaka Yantra and an Infra-red transparent material (non-hygroscopic) called Prakasha Stambhana bida. Their latest report on this research is as recent as Dec 1999. A relevant extract is appended as Appendix – E. This is undoubtedly the best report in our literature survey and raised our curiosity into the way technical interpretations are required to be made on works evolved by ‘Scientists" carried through earlier civilizations. This aspect needs a positive bent of mind than just ridiculing ancient works with sheer disdain.

The next to appear is Sri. M.K. Kawadkar of Nagpur whose interpretational skills and sixth sense are seen to manifest at their best. He has taken up study of some chapters of Vymanika Shastra and brought out fascinating exposures on yantras, atmosphere, in particular Parivesha Kriya Yantra discussed in the work interpreted as ‘Auto-pilot/Auto guidance system". His articles published through Bharatiya Boudhiks Samapda, a quarterly magazine published from Nagpur, are thought-provoking and fall in line with the kind of research-insight vitally needed in studying ancient works of Sanskrit. More about Sri. Kawadkar's analyses later through his comments.

Distinct commonality with three major contributors viz., B.M. Birla Science Centre, Dr. Dongre"s research report, Sri. M.K. Kawadkar"s Analyses lies in their way of approach in research. They all emphasize that knowledge of Sanskrit and/or science does not help in understanding of ancient scientific work. In addition to the above aspects what is even more important is the ability to interpret with reference to context. That bit of sixth sense is a vital attribute.

This understanding alone has contributed to their success and rendered purposeful results. Laboratory development of materials has gone through the following process.

Understanding of poetic form of Sanskrit version
Convert to prose form, decode the terms wherever required and arrive at ingredients
Use modern equivalents/substitutes, wherever required
Determine proportions of mixing
Use process details to obtain the materials.

This methodology has worked so well that it must have boosted their confidence as well. Thus a closed mind set in studying such works will lead one nowhere. Birla Science Centre report claims such a high level of confidence that they are categorical to state that most of the materials in the text can be obtained through laboratory tests. Extrapolating this logic, if textual contents of one part of this work could gain a high degree of validity there should be no reason why other chapters in the same text should be any different. Adverse reviews of some critics should be questioned under the spotlight of this logic.

One of the most exhaustive studies made on ancient Indian aviation is by Prof. D. K. Kanjilal. His illustrious work, Vimana In Ancient India refers to Indian epics, Vedas in great detail and describes usage of vimanas in the prehistoric era. This work, by itself is a milestone and makes very interesting reading.

Reports from Aurobindo Ashram, Pondichery hint that research relating to Propulsion Systems & Artificial Intelligence based on Vymanika Shastra are being carried out.

In response to its request, the study team generated valuable data from inland and overseas sources relating to studies/researches on this text. The data has gone into our report in some form or the other. We have reasons to believe that many texts and treatise referred to by preceptors in this work are still available in obscure collections of individuals and libraries. Perseverance in locating them should yield useful results.



It is necessary to mention that the study team has mainly referred to Vymanika Shastra published in Sanskrit-English by Sri G.R. Josyer. The Hindi version Bruhad Vimana Shastra has not been referred to on the basis of the fact that, textual content compared, there is no difference. The only exception is while referring to researches made by others based on Bruhad Vimana Shastra. Fidelity of English translation by Sri G.R. Josyer deserves special appreciation. It is taken as accurate and correct, barring decoding and interpretation needs. This is with full regard to him as a Sanskrit scholar of the yester years.

The scope of the study and presentation is confined to the extent of textual material available. Incompleteness of the text, as observed by many researchers, will be outside the purview of this study.

A significant aspect in the presentation of this report is to dispense with the reproduction of Sanskrit-English version of Vymanika Shastra. It is decided deliberately so in order to avoid a bulky report. The textual content has been restricted to bare minimum. However, we are confident that the readers will be able to comprehend what the original text portrayed.

With the aforesaid Introductory Reference we begin the restructuring, analyses and discussions on the core of the scientific work, Vymanika Shastra.

The text in the form presented by the author covers the subject under the following topics.

    1. Definition
    2. The pilot
    3. Aerial Routes
    4. Airplane parts
    5. Clothing (for aviators)
    6. Food (for aviators)
    7. Metals and heat absorbing metals
    8. Melting
    9. Mirrors
    10. Power
    11. Yantras or Machinery
    12. Parts of Yantras
    13. Varieties of Vimanas:

    • Shakuna

    • Sundara

    • Rukma

    • Tripura



The word "Vimana" originates from the Sanskrit words vi-mana, ‘vi" meaning ‘bird" and ‘mana" meaning ‘like". The interpretation will be ‘like bird". Owing to similarity with birds, it is named ‘vimana". The word ‘andaja" as related to birds means ‘egg-born". The word vimana, though of purely ancient Indian origin, is widely adapted and used by not only writers on this science in India, but also extensively quoted as such by the researchers the world over. Basis of arriving at this definition is not strange. Researchers on flying machines from other parts of the world have also looked at flying birds as their origin of inspiration and conceptualization. Ancient Indian scientists were no different in their approach.

The interesting feature of Maharshi Bharadwaja"s soothras or rules is that he recalls various definitions of other Acharyas or preceptors. The table given below elucidates this.

Maharshi Bharadwaja refers to seven acharyas connected with works on aviation science.

Acharya's Name




Garga Vachaspathy

Chakrayani Dhundinatha

Reference to Work

Vimana Chandrika

Vyomaayaana Tantra

Yantra kalpa

Yaana bindu

Kheta-yaana Prdeepika

Vyomoyana-arka Prakarana


That which can speed on earth, on water and through air, by its own power, like a bird

As per experts in aeronautical science, that which can fly in air from one place to another.

As per experts, one which flies from one country to another, one island to another and one world to another.

Notable observations:

  • Besides Maharshi Bhradwaja, several other preceptors were also associated in the field of Aviation studies and researches. Several works quoted herein deal with this discipline as well. This observation holds good for all the succeeding topics of the work where several preceptors and their quotations from related works feature.

  • Definition of vimana has been wide and comprehensive, ranging from simple flying machines to spacecraft.

  • Knowledge of this science was not confined to few individuals. Ancient scientists believed interaction and communication with others in the field and their works.

  • Their keenness to go with open mind and highlight views of other preceptors in the field is self-evident.

  • Works of the preceptors brought out, evidently at different periods, were available for reference of other contemporary or succeeding scholars.


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